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Charles Dickens 


PR 4572 pt""'" ""'™rai'y Library 
')\Smmimm'^-^'*^ an introductory i 

3 1924 013 473 123 

Cornell University 

The original of tiiis book is in 
tine Cornell University Library. 

There are no known copyright restrictions in 
the United States on the use of the text. 

Josiah Spode 

A Plated Article 


With an Introductory Account of the Historical 
Spode-Copeland China Works to which it refers 


W. T. COPELAND & SONS (lateSpode & Copdani) 



THE home beautiful began with pottery. 
Natural beauty always existed, but it was 
the potter who first expressed man's ap- 
preciation of it by trying to give grace of form and 
charm of colour to the rude vessels used in the home 
life of primitive days. The jars in which primeval 
man stored his grain for the winter months were 
moulded by his bare hands on a boulder, rudely 
decorated, and dried in the sim. It was not long, 
however, before man discovered the magic power 
that fire has of transforming the soft clay into a hard 
substance ; the potter's wheel was also the chief out- 
come of his experiments. Thus the kiln and the 
wheel were both known to all ancient civilizations, 
and were the essential factors in the making of pot- 
tery from the earliest times to the present day. 

Although EngUsh pottery did not achieve any im- 
portance until the eighteenth century, this country 
can congratulate itself on possessing a race of potters 
unsurpassed in the world. This is largely due to the 
craft having its chief centre in one district — ^the 
Staffordshire Potteries — ^where generations have 
learnt the art from father to son, and thus carried 
on the traditions of their founders : Elers, Wheildon, 
Wedgwood, and Spode. 

Josiah Spode's name springs into fame in the year 
1770, when, having successfully mastered the art of 

pottery making, Spode founded the factory which 
still bears his name coupled to that of Copeland. 
The fine quality of his productions made people 
quickly realize that the talents of Elers and Wheildon 
had foimd an exponent in Spode, and specimens of 
his work were immediately in great demand. Spode's 
fame was enhanced by his perfecting the process of 
transfer printing. This method of printing from 
copper engravings had already been in use for some 
fifteen or twenty years, but designs were confined to 
small plates, usually of pastoral scenes. Spode's 
creative mind saw wider possibihties, and by a clever 
adaptation of this process the world is indebted to 
him for those exquisite blue printed designs which 
are to-day an adornment to every home. John Ward 
records in his History of Stoke, published in 1843 : 

" The jimcture at which he [Josiah Spode] entered 
"... was of all others the most favourable for suc- 
" cessful enterprise in a particular branch of trade : 
" that of Blue Printed ware, which proved a mine of 
" wealth to many potters of the last age, though dis- 
" regarded by the great Josiah Wedgwood. In this 
" line of business the Spodes attained acknowledged 
" pre-eminence in the London market." 

Josiah Spode's eldest son, also called Josiah, 
entered the business and became as famous as his 
father. To him must be given the credit of turning 
the manufacture of porcelain into a commercial suc- 
cess. Porcelain had been made at Chelsea, Bow, and 



Blue Printed Ware produced by Spode in 

1775, illustrating Roman rums, and executed 

by celebrated engravers. 

Worcester as early as 1750, but the paste thus manu- 
factured was of a soft nature, which, when fired, was 
very liable to become distorted. By his introduction 
of a mixture of felspar and bone ash into the porcel- 
ain Spode made the latter a practical success, 
and the Stoke potteries thus became the centre of 
this branch of manufacture, a position which they 
still maintain. 

The porcelain made by Spode's method was of a 
hard and more durable nature, and its pure white- 
ness so enhanced the beauty of any decoration that 
flowers painted on it equalled in appearance the 
famous work of Billingsley. 

Spode, however, did not limit himself to the making 
of porcelain : in the year 1805 he perfected his Stone 
Cluna, or Ironstone China. Whilst being of a charm- 
ing greyish tint resembling Chinese porcelain, this 
Stone China was also of a harder nature. With poly- 
chrome decoration in the Chinese style, and enriched 
with gold, it became most popular both at home and 
on the Continent, being especially prized on account 
of its durability. We hear that in 1817 Queen 
Charlotte went specially to Stoke to see this new 

It is not perhaps generally known that Spode was 
equally clever in the designing of pottery in the Japan 
style, though credit for this is more often given to the 
factory at Derby. William Burton, however, writes 
that " as much of this decoration [Japan style] was 
" produced at Stoke as at Derby," and that " Spode's 


productions were superior to those of Bloor's Derby 
factory in their solid gilding and workmanship." 
Of Spode the second, John Ward also records that 
" few men possessed a greater share of what is 
usually called public spirit." He actively promoted 
the formation of a troop of volimteer cavalry in the 
Potteries in 1798, of which he took the command as 

In the year 1797 Spode had taken into partnership 
Mr. William Copeland, himself a native of Stoke, 
who was engaged in business in London trading in 
tea with the East. It was mutually agreed that the 
making of teapots and cups and saucers should be 
associated with tea, for it is a well-known fact that 
only a China teapot can bring out the true flavouring 
of tea. The name of the firm became later Spode and 
Copeland. This partnership proved so successftil 
that William Copeland put his only son, also called 
William, into the business. The factory increased 
and became the largest and most affluent one in the 
Potteries. It is recorded by Ward that they em- 
ployed even in those days more than 800 people, 
and that the buildings covered over eight acres of 
ground, the factory of to-day still existing on its 
original site. 

In 1838 (the second Josiah Spode having died six 
years previously) William Taylor Copeland, after- 
wards Lord Mayor of London and M.P. for Stoke, 
purchased the entire interest from the trustees of 
Spode. To this second William Copeland we owe 


one of the most important advances in porcelain- 
making during the nineteenth centviry, i.e. the pro- 
duction of Parian. Parian is a biscuit porcelain 
somewhat resembling the material which the Derby 
factory had used for their famous Biscuit figures, the 
recipe at that time having been lost. The " new " 
recipe, while not so waxy-looking as the old, re- 
sembled a fine statuary marble. It became the rage, 
and enormous quantities of statuettes, busts, and 
ornamental pieces were produced, many from models 
designed by John Gibson, R.A., and J. H. Foley, R.A. 

WiUiam Taylor Copeland was followed by his son 
Richard Pirrie Copeland, who carried on the sole 
management of the fiirm imtil 1913, when he was in 
turn succeeded by his two sons, Ronald and Gresham 
Ck)peland. The present owners firmly beUeve in the 
good taste of the public, and aim at producing no- 
thing but the very best in quality, design, and colour. 
Beautifiil and artistic objects are being made, with a 
richness of design and colouring which should please 
the most fastidious. Those who care for antiquity 
will delight in the old-world patterns reproduced, for 
the firm still have the original designs and moulds 
made by Spode himself. Those who seek something 
more in harmony with modem conditions will also 
find a never-ending stock of original designs and new 

The call to-day is for " progress " : it is with the 
desire that noble inspirations and beauty may com- 
bine with utihty that W. T. Copeland & Sons send 

their Spode ware out into the world. Many looking 
on the beautiful articles manufactured will marvel at 
the skill, patience, and enterprise that have made it 
possible for human hands to produce such things. 
The answer is that tradition still remains. Pride of 
workmanship, and the desire to make — ^for the 
benefit of mankind — ^beautiful specimens of the 
potter's art, inspire the workpeople to-day as they 
did in the days of the Spodes. 

The present ELing and Queen of England visited 
the Spode-Copeland works in 1913, and many 
illustrious persons have been there before them. The 
great Charles Dickens himself passed that way, and 
records his impressions in the following quaint story. 

A Plated Article* 


PUTTING up for the night in one of the 
chiefest towns of Staffordshire, I find it to be 
by no means a lively town. 

I have paced the streets and stared at the houses, 
and am come back to the blank bow window of the 
Dodo ; and the town clocks strike seven. I have 
my dinner and the waiter clears the table, leaves me 
by the fire with my pint decanter, and a little thin 
fiinnel-shaped wine-glass and a plate of pale biscuits 
— ^in themselves engendering desperation. 

No book, no newspaper ! 

What am I to do ? To burn the biscuits will be 
but a fleeting joy ; still, it is a temporary relief, and 
here they go on the fire ! Shall I break the plate ? 
First, let me look at the back and see who made it : 


Copeland ! Stop a moment. Was it yesterday I 
visited Copeland's works and saw them making 
plates ? In the confusion of travelling about it might 

* Published in " Household Words " in 1852. 

be yesterday or it might be yesterday month ; but I 
think it was yesterday. I appeal to the plate. The 
plate says, decidedly, yesterday. 

Don't you remember (says the plate) how you 
steamed away yesterday morning in the bright sun, 
and the east wind, along the valley of the sparkling 
Trent ? 

And don't you remember (says the plate) how you 
alighted at Stoke — a picturesque heap of houses, 
kilns, smoke, wharves, canals, and river lying (as 
was most appropriate) in a basin — and how, after 
climbing up the sides of the basin to look at the 
prospect, you trundled down again at a walking- 
match pace, and straight proceeded to my father's — 
copeland's — ^where the whole of my family, high 
and low, rich and poor, are turned out upon the 
world from our nvirsery and seminary, covering some 
fourteen acres of ground ? And don't you remember 
what we spring from — Cheaps of lumps of clay, 
partially prepared and cleaned in Devonshire and 
Dorsetshire, whence said clay principally comes — 
and hills of flint, without which we should want our 
ringing sovmd and should never be musical ? And 
as to the flint, don't you recollect that it is first burnt 


in kilns, and is then laid under the four iron feet of a 
demon slave, subject to violent stamping fits, who, 
when they come on, stamps away insanely with his 
four iron legs, and would crush all the flint in the 
Isle of Thanet to powder without leaving off? And 
as to the clay, don't you recollect how it is put into 
mills, or teazers, and is sHced, and dug, and cut 
at, by endless knives, clogged and sticky, but 
persistent — ^and is pressed out of that machine 
through a square trough, whose form it takes — 
and is cut off in square lumps and thrown into 
a vat, and there mixed with water and beaten to 
a pulp by paddle wheels — and is then run into a 
rough house, all rugged beams and ladders splashed 
with white — ^where it passes through no end of 
machinery-moved sieves all splashed with white, 
arranged in an ascending scale of fineness (some so 
fine that three hundred silk threads cross each other 
in a single square inch of their surface), and all in a 
violent state of ague, with their teeth for ever chatter- 
ing and their bodies for ever shivering ? And as to the 
flint again, isn't it mashed and mollified and troubled 
and soothed, exactly as rags are in a paper-mill, vmtil 
it is reduced to a pap so fine that it contains no atom 
of " grit " perceptible to the nicest taste ? And as to 

the flint and the clay together, are they not, after all 
this, mixed in the proportion of five of clay to one of 
flint ; and isn't the compound — ^known as " slip " — 
run into oblong troughs, where its superfluous 
moisture may evaporate ; *and, finally, isn't it slapped 
and banged and beaten and patted and kneaded and 
wedged and knocked about like butter, until it be- 
comes a beautiftil grey dough ready for the potter's 

In regard to the potter, popularly so called (says 
the plate), you don't mean to say you have forgotten 
that a workman called a Thrower is the man under 
whose hand this grey dough takes the shape of the 
simpler household vessels as quickly as the eye can 
follow ? You don't mean to say you cannot call him 
up before you, sitting, with his attendant woman, 
at his potter's wheel — a disc about the size of a dinner 
plate, revolving on two drums slowly or quickly, as he 
wills — ^who made you a complete breakfast set for a 
bachelor, as a good-humoured little off-hand joke ? 
You remember how he took up as much dough as he 
wanted, and, throwing it on his wheel, in a moment 

* Superseded by the hydraulic press invented by Messrs. 
Needham & Kite, and first used and perfected by the late 
Alderman Copeland in 1856 ; again superseded in 1922 by latest 
electrical generator and installation. 


fashioned it into a teacup — caught up more clay and 
made a saucer — a, larger dab and whirled it into a tea- 
pot — ^winked at a smaller dab and converted it into 
the lid of the teapot, accurately fitting by the measure- 
ment of his eye alone — coaxed a middle-sized dab 
for two seconds, broke it, turned it over at the rim, 
and made a milk-pot — ^laughed, and turned out a 
slop-basin — coughed, and provided for the sugar ? 
Neither, I think, are you oblivious of the newer mode 
of making various articles, but especially basins, ac- 
cording to which improvement a mould revolves in- 
stead of a disc ? For you must remember (says the 
plate) how you saw the mould of a litde basin spin- 
ning round and round, and how the workman 
smoothed and pressed a handful of dough upon it, 
and how with an instrument called a profile (a piece 
of wood representing the profile of a basin's foot) he 
cleverly scraped and carved the ring which makes the 
base of any such basin, and then took the basin off 
the lathe like a doughey skull-cap to be dried, and 
afterwards (in what is called a "green" state) to be put 
into a second lathe, there to be finished and burnished 
with a steel burnisher? And as to moulding in 
general (says the plate), it can't be necessary for me 
to remind you that all ornamental articles, and indeed 


all articles not quite circular, are made in moulds ? 
For you must remember how you saw the vegetable 
dishes, for example, being made in moulds ; and how 
the handles of teacups, and the spouts of teapots, and 
the feet of tureens, and so forth, are all made in little 
separate moulds, and are each stuck on to the body 
corporate of which it is destined to form a part, with 
a stuff called " sUp," as quickly as you can recollect 

Further, you learnt — ^you know you did — ^in the 
same visit, how the beautiful sculptures in the deli- 
cate new material called Parian are all constructed 
in moulds ; how into that material animal bones 
are ground up, because the phosphate of lime con- 
tained in bones makes it translucent ; how every- 
thing is moulded, before going into the fire, one- 
fourth larger than it is intended to come out of the 
fire, because it shrinks in that proportion in the in- 
tense heat ; how, when a figure shrinks unequally, it 
is spoiled — emerging from the furnace a mis-shaped 
birth : a big head and a little body, or a little head 
and a big body, or a Quasimodo with long arms and 
short legs, or a Miss Biffin with neither legs nor arms 
worth mentioning ! 

And as to the Kilns, in which the fiuring takes place, 










A charming Spode production on Ivory 
body with under-glaze colours to har- 
monize, on "Chelsea Wicker" shape. 


and in which some of the more precious articles are 
burnt repeatedly, in various stages of their process 
towards completion— as to the Kihis (says the plate, 
warming with the recollection), if you don't remem- 
ber THEM with a horrible interest, what did you ever 
go to Copeland's for ? When you stood inside of one 
of those inverted bowls of a Pre-Adamite tobacco 
pipe, looking up at the blue sky through the open top 
far off, as you might have looked up from a well sunk 
imder the centre of the pavement of the Pantheon at 
Rome, had you the least idea where you were ? No 
(says the plate), of course not ! And when you foimd 
that each of those pillars was a pile of ingeniously 
made vessels of coarse clay — called Saggars — ^looking, 
when separate, like raised-pies for the table of the 
mighty Giant Blunderbore and now all full of various 
articles of pottery ranged in them in baking order, 
the bottom of each vessel serving for the cover of the 
one below, and the whole ICiln rapidly filling with 
these, tier upon tier, until the last workman should 
have barely room to crawl out before the closing of 
the jagged aperture in the wall, and the kindling of 
the gradual fire ; did you not stand amazed to think 
that all the year round these dread chambers are 
heating, white hot — and cooling — ^and filling — ^and 


emptying — ^and being bricked up — and broken open 
— ^humanly speaking, for ever and ever ? To be sure 
you did ! And standing in one of those Kilns nearly 
full, and seeing a free crow shoot across the aperture 
a-top, and learning how the fire would wax hotter and 
hotter, by slow degrees, and would cool similarly, 
through a space of from forty to sixty hours, did no 
remembrance of the days when human clay was 
burnt oppress you ? Yes, I think so ! I suspect that 
some fancy of a fiery haze and a shortening breath, 
and a growing heat, and a gasping prayer ; and a 
figure in black interposing between you and the sky 
(as figures in black are very apt to do), and looking 
down, before it grew too hot to look and live, upon 
he Heretic in his edifying agony — I say I suspect 
(says the plate) that some such fancy was pretty 
strong upon you when you went out into the air, 
and blessed God for the bright spring day and the 
degenerate times ! 

After that I needn't remind you what a relief it was 
to see the simplest process of ornamenting this 
" biscuit " (as it is called when baked) with brown 
circles and blue trees — converting it into the com- 
mon crockery-ware that is exported to Africa, and 
used in cottages at home For (says the plate) I am 


well persuaded that you bear in mind how those 
particular jugs and mugs were once more set upon a 
lathe and put in motion ; and how a man blew the 
brown colour (having a strong natural affinity with 
the material in that condition) on them from a blow- 
pipe as they twirled ; and how his daughter, with a 
common brush, dropped blotches of blue upon them 
in the right places ; and how, tilting the blotches up- 
side down, she made them run into rude images of 
trees, and there an end. 

And didn't you see (says the plate) planted upon 
my own brother that astotmding blue willow, with 
knobbed and gnarled trunk and foUage of blue 
ostrich feathers, which gives our family the title of 
" willow pattern " ? And didn't you observe, trans- 
ferred upon him at the same time, that blue bridge 
which spans nothing, growing out from the roots of 
the willow ; and the three blue Chinese going over it 
into a blue temple, together with the rest of that 
amusing blue landscape which has, in deference to 
our revered ancestors of the Cerulean Empire, and in 
defiance of every known law of perspective, adorned 
millions of our family ever since the days of platters? 
Didn't you inspect the copper-plate on which my 
pattern was deeply engraved ? Didn't you perceive 


an impression of it taken in cobalt colour at a cylin- 
drical press, upon a leaf of thin paper, streaming from 
a plunge-bath of soap and water ? Wasn't the paper 
impression daintily spread by a light-fingered damsel 
(you know you admired her !) over the surface of 
the plate, and the back of the paper rubbed prodi- 
giously hard — ^with a long tight roU of flannel, tied up 
like a round of hxmg beef — ^without so much as ruffling 
the paper, wet as it was ? Then (says the plate), was 
not the paper washed away with a sponge, and didn't 
there appear, set off upon the plate, this identical 
piece of Pre-Raphaelite blue distemper which you 
now behold ? Not to be denied ! I had seen aU this — 
and more. I had been shown, at Copeland's, patterns 
of beautiful design, in faultless perspective, which are 
causing the ugly old willow to wither out of public 
favour ; and which, being quite as cheap, insinuate 
good wholesome natural art into the humblest house- 
holds. When Mr. and Mrs. Sprat have " licked the 
platter clean " they can — ^thanks to modem artists, 
and clay — ^feast their intellectual tastes upon excel- 
lent delineations of natural objects. 

This reflection prompts me to transfer my atten- 
tion from the blue plate to the forlorn but cheerfully 
painted vase on the sideboard. And surely (says the 



Reproduction in China of original " Chelsea " design * 

Complete Service of this was given, in Copeland China, 

by the late King Edward VII. to the King of Spain on 

his marriage. 

plate) you have not forgotten how the outlines of such 
groups of flowers as you see there are printed, just 
as I was printed, and are afterwards shaded and fUled 
in with metallic colours by women and girls ? As to 
the aristocracy of our order, made of the finer clay — 
porcelain peers and peeresses ; the slabs, and panels, 
and table tops, and tazze ; the endless nobiUty and 
gentry of dessert, breakfast, and tea services ; the 
gemmed perfume bottles and scarlet-and-gold salvers 
— ^you saw that they were painted by artists, with 
metallic colours laid on with camel-hair pencils, and 
afterwards burnt in. 

And talking of burning in (says the plate), didn't 
you find that every subject, from the willow pattern 
to the landscape Jdfter Turner — having been framed 
upon clay or porcelain biscuit — ^has to be glazed? 
Of course, you saw the glaze — composed of various 
vitreous materials — ^laid over every article. We had 
in my time — ^and I suppose it is the same now — 
fourteen hours' firing to fix the glaze and make it 
" run " aU over us equally, so as to put a good shiny 
and unscratchable surface upon us ; and upon this 
you saw some of the finest steel engravings trans- 
ferred, to be fixed by a subsequent firing in the 
" hard " kiln — didn't you ? Why, of course you did ! 


Of course I did. So, listening to the plate's re- 
minders, and musing upon them, I got through the 
evening after all, and went to bed, I made but one 
sleep of it — ^for which I have no doubt I am also in- 
debted to the plate — and left the lonely Dodo in the 
morning, quite at peace with it. 



Used by the firm since its inception, 1770. 



Felspar Porcelain 









^lATE % 
p. SPODE g 

'5l -^^ 

Late Spode. CipelandileSpode 

Stone China 









9%itn Kkin 

Printed in England at the Cloister Press 
Heaton Mersey • near Manchester